Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Al-Zawahiri Praised Syrian Protesters

After being silent for a few months and having been abandoned by the runaway Arab Spring train, al-Qaeda finally declared its support for the protesters in Syria. Not surprisingly, the Syrian activists rejected al-Zawahiri's offer of support like plague, declaring it as opportunistic.

There are two take-home points from this incident, though:

1. Al-Qaeda's strength has deteriorated badly. The double-blow of the death of Osama bin Laden and the emergence of Arab Spring damaged its prestige, not to mention the organizational structure.

2. Al-Qaeda is becoming less and less relevant to the "struggles" everywhere. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has been acting independently and actually did pretty well even without al-Qaeda's support. In Iraq, it was Iran that had been more and more influential, especially with al-Maliki's government unable to get its act together to create a strong modern state.

In short, this has been a very bad year for al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, Douglas E. Lute, President Obama's top adviser on Pakistan was confident enough to declare that the United States has six months to "knock out" al-Qaeda leadership.

By inserting itself in the Syrian demonstrations, al-Qaeda is attempting to reinvigorate itself within the Islamic world. Syria in fact has a great potential for infiltration: it is rugged, ruled by an popular regime that belongs to Alawite Sect, a branch of Shiite Islam that is sometimes seen as heretical by extremists in both Sunni and Shiite branches. Unlike the pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt, the protest movement in Syria is not especially united, as it is fragmented by different localities and clans.

More importantly, none of the Western powers so far has much interest in interfering in Syria. Both the United States and the European Union have been distracted by their own domestic crises. Not to mention that American and European citizens simply have no appetite to fund any more interventions (even if there is support for intervention, there is no guarantee that Syria's neighbors would allow the use of their airspace, and using Israel's would be politically disastrous).

Al-Zawahri's offer is a calculated gambit to insert al-Qaeda into a possible upcoming civil war in Syria, where it may be invited by a group or a clan which might be desperate enough to beg for help against further government oppression. It was basically an offer to expand its franchise in Syria.

Therefore, it is unwise to simply dismiss al-Zawahri's gesture as just the last swan song of al-Qaeda. It may still have some lives left in it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts on the Norway Attacks

While Yohanes has already written a blog post on the recent violence in Norway, I feel compelled to add my take as well. The bloodshed, the destruction, such a tragedy. The stories of innocent children being gunned down from behind are horrific. But it's more than that. Admittedly, as someone of Norwegian ancestry (with family from Bergen), this set of events has especially tugged at my heartstrings.

Originally, I planned on writing a comprehensive analytical post on what happened in Norway. But Yohanes beat me to it. And he did a nice job. So instead, I'd like to put forward a few points that Yohanes didn't discuss. In this way, I hope my arguments below complement rather than overlap with what Yohanes has already written.

1. We usually think of the relationship between large terror groups and small cells and single individuals as one in which the latter learns from and mimics the former. After all, it is the large terror groups that have the manpower, funding, organizational structure, and base of skills to do things their smaller counterparts probably can't do: to be ambitious, to innovate, to adapt to the existing political and strategic landscape. But terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman argues we could see the relationship between the large and small reversed in the future. Specifically, he claims that that terror groups like al-Qaeda could copy the Norway attacks.

When we think about the direction that al-Qaeda is heading, there is some justification for Hoffman's claim. Al-Qaeda is a weakened and decapitated group that, aside from its main bases in Af-Pak and Yemen, mostly relies on small cells and lone wolf attacks. This where AQ is right now. And it's no shock that AQ leaders have recently called on its supporters to launch violent solo attacks. After seeing the extent of the death and destruction caused by Anders Behring Breivik, it's possible that AQ might encourage this specific type of lone wolf attack. If AQ leaders want the organization to continue to function and remain relevant, they must adapt to existing external pressures and constraints (chiefly, though not exclusively, from the West) that they currently face. One way to do that is to get creative in way that requires little cost and effort from AQ headquarters.

2. The attacks are a reminder that just as there are extremists in the Islamic camp, there are also non-Islamic extremists around the world. Whereas most radical, violent Muslims have one main unifying argument--namely, that the West is conducting a crusade against their co-religionists, culture, land, and Islam more generally--the grievances of non-Islamic terrorists can be boiled down, with some exceptions, to two discrete categories. On the one hand, we find delusional anti-government groups and individuals who believe the state is out to get them (take their guns, limit their freedom, etc.). And on the other hand, we see anti-immigrant kooks, like Breivik, who worry than an oncoming wave foreign peoples will dilute and pervert their culture, laws, values, politics. Nevertheless, both sides, both Islamic and non-Islamic terrorists, have something in common: they believe they're protecting their way of life against an existential threat.

Certainly, some, though by no means all, of the non-Islamic terrorists are in fact Christian devotees. But of the Christian terrorists, keep in mind that not all are really religious fundamentalists. Some are cultural Christians. This is the label that best fits Breivik. Sure, at times he professed his Christian bona fides in his 1500-page manifesto. But a close read also reveals that he's not a Christian fundamentalist. This isn't someone who takes inspiration from the Bible or prayer or a Christian community of worshipers. Rather, Breivik supports Christianity because he views it as a potent force that has upheld the historical political status quo order in Europe. In his mind, were Christianity to be supplanted by Islam, Europe's usual way of life would be finished.

The basic crux of point #2 here should seem obvious, but it needs to be said. The war on terrorism has probably blinded some Westerners to the fact non-Islamic terrorists exist. Just look at the first gut reactions of American pundits and media in the wake the Noway attacks. Quite a few were extremely quick to blame Islamic terrorists in general or al-Qaeda specifically, with almost little to no evidence to support such assertions. Furthermore, in the U.S., the notion of far right extremists has become heavily politicized. When the Department of Homeland Security released a 2009 report entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," the White House was slammed by conservative politicians, pundits, bloggers, and groups, calling it a "hit job" and a "piece of propaganda." Newt Gingrich called for the firing of the report's author. And under immense pressure, Secretary Napolitano caved in, apologized for the report's contents and promised a re-do in the future.

3. Is the violence a manifestation of the broader rise of the new far right in European politics? Over the last few years, far right parties have been gaining ground politically in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Austria. Their political message essentially preys on the fear that the Other (usually minorities, but also at times international institutions and great power countries) will sully and ultimately destroy European culture, politics, history, and economics. The most pressing concern, according to the fearmongers, is the potential Islamization of Europe via a steady influx of Muslim immigrants from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. These parties tend to fuse such disparate but in some cases related strands of thought as populism, nationalism, and anti-Islamism

Does this nascent climate of hostility toward the Other in European societies motivate someone like Breivik to commit mass murder? At this point, we don't know, and it's probably a bit unfair to put direct blame on these parties. Yet at the same time, we shouldn't rule out the possibility that there's some connection between the two. It's conceivable that ugly messages received by unstable people at the just the right moment in their lives could prove disastrous.

4. It will be interesting to see how the Norway attacks impact the European debate about multiculturalism. In the last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, among others, announced that multiculturalism has failed. In their view, governments that support multiculturalism have unintentionally created the emergence of small pockets of segregated communities along ethno-religious lines in which each has its own values and interests. According to the critics, the big problem is when politically correct authorities leave these communities alone and untouched, refusing to force them to adapt to the wider society, for it's under these circumstances that extremism and radicalism is more likely to take hold and thrive. The issue now is that these same views are espoused by the Norway killer. Does Breivik's beliefs delegitimize the position of multiculturalism critics in the eyes of Europeans?

5. I hope the attacks serve as a wake-up call that even peaceful, non-militaristic, internationally cooperative countries like Noway can be targeted by terrorism. Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that Norway begin a massive arms program or transition to a police state. But the country ought to take the security of citizens more seriously. For example, Breivik was allowed to shoot unfettered for 90 minutes. That's just unacceptable, no matter what excuses the Norwegian government or police forces offer. The place from which the shooter bought fertilizer was alarmed enough to reportedly notify the authorities. What happened there? Unfortunately, I assume the police failed to investigate him or place him under surveillance. But apparently, Norway's lax concern for security goes beyond these recent events. According to a 2010 Wikileaks document, Norwegian officials believed the country was immune to terrorism, that violent attacks were things that happened in other countries, not idyllic Norway. Such attitudes alarmed American officials, who saw Norway as complacent and unprepared to deal with security threats.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quick post on Norway Killings

Okay, first I need to admit that when I initially heard about the shooting and bombing, my gut reaction is that "oh no, not another idiotic al-Qaeda-wannabe Moslem convert." Considering the number of al-Qaeda inspired attacks all over the world in the past few years, it was very easy to follow your my feeling and believe that the killing was done by radical Islamists.

When I read an New York Times article noting that the suspect bought six tons of fertilizer, then I said, "no way." Radical Islamists don't typically use fertilizer. It is unwieldy, difficult to manufacture into explosives, and not to mention the difficulties in ordering it, since it will attract the attention of the authorities, especially if the one placing the order has a Muslim-sounding name.

Having found out that the killer is a right-wing Christian fanatic surprises me. Christianity has been in retreat, especially in Europe, and frankly, I'd expect this to happen in the U.S., but not in Europe, as the Europeans have been more and more secularized, with religion seen as some irrelevant relic from the past.

There are recent precedents of Christian extremism and radicalism in the U.S. The Hutaree, an extremist Christian militia in Michigan, for instance, was arrested last year for planning to kill police officers. Not to mention the Westboro Baptist Church, which seems not to understand that they are severely undermining their purpose by pulling the stupid stunts of protesting during solders' funerals.

So what happened?  It is a very difficult question to answer and people can easily fall into two types of traps:

1. Just another madman who showed his craziness: This is the easiest answer to all these puzzles. Yet, this is also the worst trap to fall into. Not every killer is a nutcase like Jared Loughner. Psychopaths such as Eric Harris of Columbine fame had his own twisted rationale and logic in masterminding the massacre and cannot easily be lumped together with Jared Loughner. Mass murderers often act alone, but each murderer is different from the other.

2. Religion/ideology: This is another horrible trap to fall into. It is very rare even for religious fundamentalists or radicals to commit violence. There is a huge difference between being a self-righteous obnoxious person and a mass murderer. In that sense, it is very unlikely that these Westboro Churchgoers that I mentioned above will ever pick up weapons and start shooting. The same thing is also true with a huge majority of both radical Christians and radical Moslems out there. In fact, considering the number of religious radicals out there, the number of people committing violence is still very low and effective policing does an excellent job in keeping this number almost nonexistent.

Still, even with effective policing, this guy may fly below the radar. As the New York Times reported, this guy never showed much interest in violence or in the various known radical groups, which are always heavily monitored by police. Basically, this guy is a lone wolf that most likely worked alone. On his claim of connection with two other cells? I don't buy it.

In fact, this case is quite similar with the recent suicide bombing in Indonesia on April 15, 2011 that struck a mosque within a police compound in Cirebon, West Java. The suicide bomber belonged to a small unknown group that comprised less than 20 people with a grand ambition of building an Islamic state in Indonesia and who believed themselves to have connections with other groups in both Indonesia and the Middle East through Internet.

In reality, however, there was no link at all. These people were inspired by the writings of radical clerics affiliated with al-Qaeda and various other radical groups, but they themselves had no connection to the larger organizations such as Jamaah Islamiyah, let alone al-Qaeda. While there are reports that the suicide bomber was inducted by Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual head of Jamaah Islamiyah, several years before the bombing occurred, surprisingly even Abu Bakar Bashir himself condemned the bombing, declaring that Moslems were not allowed to attack mosques.

The striking part, then, is that it's very easy, in this era of technology and easy communication throughout the world, for someone to believe him or herself to be a part of global movement by joining conversations or discussions in which participants may agree with him or her. But whether such person is actually connected to a wider jihadist movement, reality frequently tells us a different story.

Similar to the Columbine shootings, while this shooting is shocking, its occurrence is very rare and done by a single  or very few committed individuals who manage to lie low, escape detection, and launch their attacks.

In fact, the authorities may play into an attacker's hands by immediately cracking down on various extremist groups in Europe and the United States and silencing radical groups. Such crackdowns might raise a lot of ruckus about fairness, since radical Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, are pretty much unmolested by authorities. But more importantly, it may create an unintended effect of uniting radical groups which feel unfairly treated by the authorities.

Keep in mind that the best way to handle these groups are to let them talk themselves into irrelevance. For instance, in the U.S., a membership Ku Klux Klan is seen with derision, not as something to be proud of. Only a very tiny sliver of the society approves anything done by the Westboro Church. Being a skinhead Neo-Nazis in Germany carries a lot of stigma, seen not as a sign of respectability, but as of a juvenile delinquent.

Mumbai, and various places, where the terrorists exploded one bomb as a decoy and then launched another attack when people were feeling safe after having escaped the first blast.

Second is a complete and through investigation, hopefully proving my point that this is just a lone killer in order to show the limited appeal of violence in today's modern society.

Third, prevent overreaction. Like it or not, there are many radical and loathsome ideas circling around and it is very easy to get exposed to it. Yet, at the same time, to simply arrest or crack down on radical groups for espousing the ideas is a recipe for trouble - unless the group is openly promoting and getting involved in violence.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Search of an Indonesian Grand Strategy

My recent article in the Jakarta Globe, which claims that Indonesia is unprepared to take more responsibility in the security of the Southeast Asia, raises several interesting issues that unfortunately can't be covered in that piece, most notably whether a state truly needs to have a set of  overarching foreign policy objectives or what international relations specialists often call "Grand Strategy."

Peter Feaver, a practitioner and scholar, and one of my favorite authors, describes Grand Strategy as follows:
"Grand strategy is a term of art from academia, and refers to the collection of plans and policies that comprise the state's deliberate effort to harness political, military, diplomatic, and economic tools together to advance that state's national interest. Grand strategy is the art of reconciling ends and means. It involves purposive action -- what leaders think and want. Such action is constrained by factors leaders explicitly recognize (for instance, budget constraints and the limitations inherent in the tools of statecraft) and by those they might only implicitly feel (cultural or cognitive screens that shape worldviews)."

This definition is still hairy. We can argue that every state has a grand strategy, though the scale of which is often limited, based on resources, capabilities, and political will. Still, some people would not call it grand strategy if it is conducted by small states. Rather, it is simply a "national objective," primarily because of their inability to marshal and concentrate resources in way that significantly impacts world politics. (According to this view, think about cold war politics and the jockeying for power and stability during WWII.) In short, perhaps only the major players can have a grand strategy.

I disagree with such proposition. I will take Feaver's definition and add another proposition: that grand strategy is a set of foreign policy objectives that aim to fulfill a state's long-term goal.

For instance, even though Nauru is just a very small dot in the middle of nowhere that only few states really care about, such as Taiwan, South Ossetia, and the Republic of Abkhazia, which are craving for international diplomatic attention and recognition, Nauru has a grand strategy, which is to make every state in the world agree on the urgency of the problem of global warming, lest it be drowned by the rising sea level. In order to pursue that goal, Nauru engages in various foreign policies, from supporting academic enterprises that deal with climate change to lobbying other states to get involved more in the issue of global warming. Due to Nauru's small size and small base of resources, however, its efforts are minimal and only partially effective. Still, that does not mean that Nauru doesn't have grand strategy. It does, but it has not sufficient resources to support it.

Indonesia, however, is a state that potentially has considerable influence in international affairs, thanks to its strategic location and abundance of strategic resources, making it an attractive partner for every single great power in the world.

Indonesia used its position rather nicely during the Sukarno and Suharto era. In the 1960s, Sukarno in essence manipulated Indonesia's strategic position to blackmail the United States, the Soviet Union, and People Republic of China at the same time to fulfill his foreign policy goals of incorporating West Irian (West Papua) and to launch an armed conflict with Malaysia. During Suharto's era, Indonesia managed to attract American aid and investments in exchange for its role as a bulwark against the Communists. Fearing the encroachment of the national communists and China from the north, Suharto engaged in a series of diplomatic maneuvering that would end the civil war in Cambodia and enlarge ASEAN, while at the same time, simultaneously engaging and keeping China out from the region.

After the fall of Suharto in 1998, however, Indonesian foreign policy has been aimless. Even though current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has an aspiration for Indonesia to be the leader of Southeast Asia, there is neither a coherent plan or strategy for achieving the ambition.

There are three reasons for why this has happened. Let's look at them individually.

First is the lack of attention from the leaders themselves on foreign policy due to various domestic political concerns. Really, a large part of this is Indonesia's relatively new democracy, with its weak and underdeveloped institutions.

Indeed, most pressing for any Indonesian leader is the fact that his or her domestic support is very weak. No political leader in Indonesia actually has strong structural support in either society or the bureaucracy. In the U.S., any president can rely on a strong domestic support, ranged from a strong political party to highly sophisticated interest groups and political action groups that provides loyal followers and financing. In Indonesia, however, such support is lacking. Indonesian leaders know that today's support may dry up in the future rather quickly, as former President Megawati Sukarnoputri painfully found out in the 2004 election, when having placed second in a five-way presidential race, she found that all of her financial backings and political supporters had gone to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who placed first. Not surprisingly, Mr. SBY won handily in the run-off. The reason is simple: Indonesian politics is heavily personalized, without any strong structural foundation in parties.

As a result, having been preoccupied around the clock in shoring up domestic support, no Indonesian leader pays much attention to foreign policy. SBY finally moved in this direction, but only once he got reelected in 2009 with a healthy 67% of the electorate. Yet, recent political scandals involving corruption within his administration and party have sucked all the oxygen from his foreign policy ambitions, leading to foreign policy paralysis.

Second is the decimation of the professionals of the Indonesian foreign ministry. Back in the Sukarno's era, the foreign ministry was practically the strongest ministry in Indonesia under Dr. SubandrioSubandrio also moonlighted as Sukarno's deputy Prime Minister (with Sukarno as both president and prime minister) and the chief of Indonesian Intelligence Service, making his position paramount in Indonesian politics.

But the seeds of the fall of the foreign ministry can be traced to the Suharto era. It was during that time that interference from the military began to weaken the ministry. The Suharto regime purged the ministry of Subandrio's professionals it couldn't trust or rely on. And in their place came former military officials who were sent to exile (usually for political reasons) or forced to retire. Hence, what we find is the foreign ministry losing its institutional autonomy over time.

Nowadays, while positions in the foreign ministry are still prestigious, the ministry simply has no money, making the posts less attractive to wealth-seeking civil servants. As a result, both morale and quality of the personnel of the ministry suffer. There are lots of vacancies within the ministry. It should be no surprise that under these circumstances, the foreign ministry lacks creative and novel initiatives. Meantime, the foreign ministry has been dogged by bureaucratic infighting with other ministries that encroach on its turfs, such as ministry of labor (dealing with Indonesian workers abroad) and trade (international trade). All of which means the foreign ministry is simply too busy or distracted to make effective foreign policy.

Third is the sad fact there is only very few Indonesian universities teaching security studies. Most International Relations programs in Indonesia focus on political economy and regional studies. Thanks to Suharto's de-politization and de-professionalization of Indonesian society, there's no demand for security studies as most people are concerned only on economics, which is very common in every authoritarian society since economics are a politically safe set of issues.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Get More Out of Pakistan

This is a topic we touched on in our Afghanistan conversation, but one that we never really explored in much detail. There, we pointed out that Pakistan needs to contribute much more on some essential international security tasks to give Afghanistan a viable chance to stabilize and allow for U.S. forces to make a safe exit from the area. But we didn't get into the specific mechanics of how to get more effort and production out of Pakistan. Let's do that here.

To begin, Pakistan, like most countries, operates strictly on the basis of its self-interests. It's only targeting and pursuing anti-state terror groups like the Pakistani Taliban that threaten and attack government posts and officials and military installations and troops. Meantime, the country embraces a number of other terror groups that it's developed and nurtured over the years. Just consider the relationship between parts of the Pakistani military industrial complex and groups like the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Haraka-ul-Mujahadeen. Why support these groups? Pakistan is worried about a possible unfriendly government in Kabul and obsessed about the rise of Indian influence in Afghanistan. And these groups are consistently willing and able to do Pakistan's, usually the military's, bidding against various threats and dangers.

After years of evidence, it's clear that Washington can't simply ask, if not plead, Pakistan to provide more help on matters related to international security. And unfortunately, withholding aid probably won't do the trick.

As I highlighted in my last blog post, a major problem is that America lacks sufficient leverage in its relationship with Pakistan. It's dependent on Pakistan. The U.S. needs Pakistan to clamp down on terrorist sanctuaries on its soil and to capture, if not eliminate, Pakistani terrorists when possible. Washington needs Islamabad to exercise much better control over the Pakistani military, extinguishing the cozy link between the armed forces and militant groups. Additionally, Team Obama needs the cooperation of Pakistan to allow the transport of American war resources into Afghanistan.

What this means is that the U.S. has a tough time moving Pakistan in a desirable direction, and it certainly can't do it by itself.

Nevertheless, Team Obama isn't in a completely helpless situation. The U.S. can influence Pakistan's behavior via two interconnected approaches. It must focus on the main sources of Pakistan's insecurity (Afghanistan and India) that trigger its untoward and unproductive actions. Which means, in turn, that the U.S. should look to third parties (again, Afghanistan and India) as a method of reorienting Pakistan's priorities on Afghanistan. This indirect approach offers better hope for success than directly pressuring Pakistan into changing its ways.

1. The U.S. ought to place more pressure on the Afghan government to reassure Pakistan that it that is not a security threat and does not seek to squeeze Pakistan out of the country. In short, for obvious reasons, Pakistani officials don't want a hostile country on its doorstep. And there are reports that Pakistani officials suspect several of Karzai's close associates of harboring deep anti-Pakistani views and working behind the scenes to put these thoughts into actual policy. This has helped to plant the seeds of distrust in Islamabad and caused Pakistan to view Kabul very warily.

Just as troublesome, there has been a recent spate of cross-border attacks, causing accusations to fly in Islamabad and Kabul. Pakistan claims it's simply been trying to hunt down terrorists and an occasional, though accidental, round of fire has been launched into Afghanistan. In a startling reversal of what Kabul and Washington has complained about for years, Pakistan now claims that Afghanistan is not doing enough to control the out-flow of terrorists across its borders. Kabul, not surprisingly, protests this assertion and argues that Pakistan's attacks are provocative, power plays meant to demonstrate Pakistan's military superiority over Afghanistan. Moreover, making matters worse, Pakistan's border attacks has resulted in the death or displacement of hundreds of seemingly innocent Afghan civilians, which has only inflamed public sentiment against Pakistan. Indeed, on July 11, public outrage surfaced in a 500-strong demonstration in Jalalabad, in which Afghans chanted and held signs with anti-Pakistani slogans.

It is into this situation that the U.S. should step up its involvement, preferably with an eye toward smoothing relations between both sides. In particular, Team Obama ought to pay special attention to reducing distrust and building confidence not only between the governments and militaries but also between the Pakistani and Afghan peoples. Toward these ends, it is imperative that Washington get both Pakistan and Afghanistan to work together more often and more deeply on terrorism. These efforts should include, among many other things, high level meetings involving an array of state bureaucratic agencies, intelligence sharing, as well as the promise to confine and then go after terrorists on each side of their own border, perhaps through a joint declaration. It would also be worthwhile to explore the idea of pushing Kabul to sideline/demote the figures that Pakistan is most concerned about. Additionally, Team Obama should pressure Afghanistan to think of ways it can credibly signal to Pakistan that it values its relationship over the long-term.

India and Pakistan have had a long and tempestuous relationship. They've been rivals and occasional enemies for decades, constantly competing for influence in the region, even fighting three bloody wars. And Kashmir, with both Pakistan and India vigorously contesting its status, is another sore spot that lingers to today. Clearly, this has been a complex, difficult relationship, which is important to point out because we need to understand how tricky is it for India and Pakistan to work together on meaningful, substantive issues.

In the specific case of Afghanistan, it might be even more difficult than usual to get India to cooperate with the U.S. on Afghanistan. In the scenario I'm describing here, the U.S. would be asking India to make the first move in making concessions on its position on Afghanistan. Why, Indian officials would likely think, should we pro-actively accommodate Pakistan when that country is the is the source of much of the current problems in Afghanistan? Shouldn't Pakistan step up to the table on its own, without prodding and inducements?

In a perfect world, yes, this would happen. Alas, it's not. Yet there is still hope.

The U.S. ought to start with the premise that India and Pakistan should delink issues related to Afghanistan from other, more deeply rooted concerns in their relationship. This might make India more willing to be a useful partner. Washington ought to remind India that it's in New Delhi's interest to assist in weening Pakistan off terrorism and militancy in Afghanistan. After all, India has had its interests in Afghanistan attacked by anti-Indian terror groups supported by Pakistan. India should be pushed to recognize publicly that both Pakistan and India have legitimate interests in Afghanistan; and that sometimes these interests will compete against each other, though neither side looks to crowd or force the presence of the other out of the country. Finally, the U.S. should try to get India to downplay any expansionist ambitions, either in the region or worldwide.

The two approaches just described won't provide quick benefits, since it will take time to get Afghanistan and India to move first and then Pakistan to respond in a positive manner. Nevertheless, they are worth pursuing. If done right, Pakistan should feel far less political and security pressure to support terrorists and other troublemakers who operate Afghanistan. Which, in turn, will turn Pakistan into part of the solution there rather than the major problem. Moreover, the two approaches might help Pakistan internally. For instance, they could soothe civil-military relations, which would then pave the way for greater internal political stability. And if others move first and offer some concessions, Pakistani leaders might have just enough of a face saving mechanism to reciprocate in kind to India and Afghanistan.

Now, some of the above is already happening. For example, this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's traveled to India to discuss, among other topics, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is good, on two different counts. One, it signifies that the U.S. understands the predicament its in. And two, the talks are a high level, which means Washington is giving this set of issues the seriousness that they require. But we need to see substantive progress on the ground. The U.S. should place the above two approaches, in some form, high on its list of priorities. There's too much at stake not to try all sensible means of getting Pakistan on board with stabilizing Afghanistan.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A "fun" boarding school

Well, this is a slow week. Either nothing really significant happened or perhaps people are just getting used to the demonstrations in Cairo and Amman and the regime's brutality in Syria and civil war in Libya.

So let us find an interesting distraction, which I found in a small island called Bima in Indonesia, where the head of a really small Islamic boarding school surrendered to the police. This was the culmination of a chain of events that started on Monday, July 7, 2011, when an explosion reportedly occurred at the boarding school.

200 police were sent to surround the Ummar Bin Khattab Boarding School and after a day standoff, they went in and found the boarding school to be completely empty. There they found several Molotov Cocktails, home-made bombs, and as usual, VCDs on Jihads. Apparently, the explosion came from a class that went wrong, where Firdaus, alias Abdullah, an instructor-cum-treasurer, was attempting to teach the students how to make their own bombs and the bomb blew up in his face, killing him.

On Saturday, after several days on the run, the head of the boarding school surrendered himself to the police after pressures from his family.

Interestingly, this boarding school has been in trouble since its establishment in 2004. There are reports that inspectors from the Ministry of Religion were forbidden to enter the school. People complained that the students and instructors were aloof, unfriendly, and never socialized with the locals. Not a long time ago, an 18-year old student from this school was arrested for stabbing a police-officer to death under the name of "Jihad."  There are also revelations that the leaders of this school have connections to Jamaah Islamiyah, and actually Abu Bakar Bashir acknowledged this connection!

In short, there are lots of warning signs, and yet the government never attempted to enter and to disband this school. Therefore, the proper question to ask is why? And how could this happen?

A cynic's answer is that they are allowed to be there, for use whenever bad things happen and the government needs something to distract the public's attentions. An old political trick. There is some truth in this accusation. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration has been under siege in the past few weeks, thanks to the revelations of corruption and bribery within the Partai Demokrat (SBY's party) and electoral manipulations in 2009. So the timing was perfect, and yet the public didn't bite, likely because there was no victim (aside from the dead bomb-instructor).

Still, I'd say the biggest problem is actually very mundane: simply the incompetence and ego-driven motives of officials. Unless there's public pressure to clean up the radicals, the police never take an pro-active stance for a simple self-interested reason: there's no money to gain for them. With public pressure, there is usually an increase in the budget allocated for various security-related departments, and well, you get the point.

So nothing new here, move along. There's no new terrorist network. Just the remnants of JI. No wonder people are giving a collective yawn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Tough on Pakistan

Last weekend news outlets, starting with The New York Times, reported that President Obama has decided to suspend $800 million in military aid to Pakistan, just about 40 percent of the total aid ($2 billion) targeted to the country's armed forces.

This decision is the result of both long- and short-term events. As discussed previously in our conversation on Afghanistan, it is very clear that Pakistan has been long playing a double game with the U.S. In short, Pakistan’s military cooperates just enough on terrorism and other international security issues to ensure that it continues to receive exorbitant levels of aid. Here and there it rounds up, at times even kills, bad guys. But this effort has been half-hearted at best. And at worst, which is quite routine, Pakistan has been sheltering and aiding the Taliban and al-Qaeda, making life difficult, if not downright dangerous, for the Karzai government, Afghan citizens, and U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan. The U.S., in response, constantly declares it wants to see better results from Pakistan. But in private, the American officials must feel like they're being fleeced.

Of course, recently, there has been a separate string of incendiary events. The raid on the bin Laden compound, which led to OBL's death, stoked anger among Pakistanis who claimed their country's sovereignty had been violated. But in turn, as details surfaced of OBL's extended stay in Abbottabad, a loud chorus of Americans, including elected officials in Washington, have voiced outrage at Pakistani authorities. Specifically, they find it impossible that OBL could have lived five years near Pakistan's finest military academy without someone in the state knowing this and providing protection for him. With this in mind, many Americans want Washington's relationship with Pakistan reevaluated and U.S. military aid completely withdrawn.

Strikingly, even the U.S. military has lobbed criticism at Pakistan. Agreeing with most Americans, military officials have admitted that the Pakistani state likely, in some shape and form, aided OBL. And just last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly declared that the U.S. believes that the ISI, Pakistan's spy agency, was directly involved in the assassination of Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani investigative journalist who was doing important work exploring the intricate web of radicalism and extremism in Pakistan's navy.

Now, some so-called Pakistani experts are arguing that the halt in military aid is a bad move. They claim that it reduces America's leverage over Pakistan, risks alienating Pakistan's military, and could prompt Islamabad to find other external donors, such as China, which has already been cultivating stronger military ties with Pakistan. Perhaps, but I don't find these arguments convincing.

Indeed, in my view, Obama’s decision is a welcome move. And it's something I suggested on this blog a few months ago. Here, let's spell out the logic in support of suspending aid in more detail.

Back in April, I saw the status quo in Afghanistan as unsustainable in the near and long-term. Things needed to change. I wrote: "Pakistan is the key. Pakistan can contribute far, far more than it has, and it must do so. Think of it this way: In a best case scenario, even if Kabul is able to get some kind of a deal done with the Taliban, the country will not be internally safe or stable as long as the group has an open sanctuary in Pakistan where the hardcore members can roam free and cause havoc inside of Afghanistan. This must change."

This description fits today. Nothing has changed, not that I, and I'm sure the readers, expected much to change in three months. Nevertheless, it's time for the U.S. to begin using more of its tools to get Pakistan to clean up its act--on terrorism, on Afghanistan, and regarding its extremist, obtrusive military. Simply asking, and probably pleading, Pakistan to do more apparently is not good enough. Failing to put sufficient pressure on Pakistan--a problem that has plagued both the Obama and Bush administrations--has only increased the humanitarian burdens, created more international security dangers, and placed more Americans troops in harm's way.

It's circumstances precisely like these when aid should be pulled, when the other side isn’t living up to its end of the bargain. If some portion of the aid wasn't halted, at least temporarily, then the U.S. is pursuing dumb and wasteful policies.

Suspending military aid can can act a wake-up call for Pakistan. It sends a clear, unequivocal signal that Washington is frustrated and wants to see changes in Pakistan's effort and behavior. After all, it's willing to disturb and possibly imperil relations with a needed ally, hitting Pakistan right in the wallet, to make its point.

Sure, Pakistan can run to China, but that really doesn't help the country solve its issues, particularly the rot in its institutions. Instead, it just keeps the aid flowing. Importantly, China’s not interested in what happens internally in Pakistan, as that’s the standard position it takes in world politics. So for instance, Pakistan can't rely on China if al-Qaeda and Taliban militants put an increasing number of civilians and officials in their crosshairs. And the Pakistani government will find little support from Beijing in helping it to assert authority over the often-uncontrollable military.

In the end, I suspect that the normal flow of military aid to Pakistan will resume in the not too distant future. The U.S. simply needs Pakistan too much to let the entire relationship turn too ugly, let alone completely fall apart. And I also think that Team Obama is reluctant to hand Pakistan to China, which is something that could have adverse international geostrategic repercussions for the U.S. for decades. In the meantime, before the full package of aid is reestablished, let’s hope the U.S. gets some tangible progress from Pakistan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So I received an e-mail from Saif al-Islam Qaddafi

It is true, yours truly here suddenly received an email from one of the most famous people in the world today and he is offering me a lot of money. Here's the entire e-mail in full:

From: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi <>
Subject: Assalamu 'Alaikum.

Assalamu 'Alaikum,
Dear Friend,

I know that you will be surprise to receive this e-mail from me, My name is Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, the son of the present president of Libya. I am contacting you for an urgent assistance which will benefit the both parties.

As you can read and see in the media, my family is presently undergoing tough time in the hand of the masses due to his long stay in power as the president of Libya for over 40 years now. Although there is no way you can satisfy human being, my father has done so many things to better the life of our people unfortunately they never appreciated his effort instead it resulted in calling my family bad names.

The International community has reached a resolution for immediate seizure of our assets both in US and the UK which they have already done and many other sanctions but it can’t affect our financial statue in the world. But as you can not predict tomorrow they say that is while I decided to reach you for this assistant hoping it will be top secret within you and i and you should avoid the media

I want to request your humble assistance to receive a total sum of $US9.3m.

I will not give you details of the fund now because of security reasons but just have in mind that the fund exit in one of the countries which i will tell you in the long run as confirming your interest in this project.

You will receive this fund directly and keep it safe or invest it in any business of yours till this saga is over then I will get back to you on how the fund or profit will be shared. By the special grace of Allah nothing will happen to me.

If you are ready and will keep it top secret and avoid the media contact me back and the details of where the fund exit and how it will be transferred will be made known to you.I know you may have little fear on you but it is risk free i assure you this.

I know you will be in hurry to reply me but due to what my family is facing now and security reasons I will not  be responding always ! ! ! ! ! ! !.

All you need to do is to contact me and indicate your seriousness and interest in this matter as to enable us move into action.

Peace be with you till i receive your reply.

Assalamu 'alaikum
Saif Al Islam Gaddafi.


Hilarity is abound within this 419 email, such as the idea I won't have any peace until he receives my reply (I guess because he presumes me greedily pondering what I will do with $US9.3m [sic]). Still, this email raises many interesting questions, notably how do dictators get rich?

The easiest answer is corruption. It is true that most of them are corrupt. Still, not everyone acts like Mobutu or Kim Jong-il, completely robbing the state blind like an army of termites just marched through a wooden village. Some of them do pursue genuine business interests. Meantime, Qaddafi, al-Assad, Ben Ali, and Mubarak are just several autocrats whose family built strong business interests, but they realized that plundering the state was not enough, so they had to keep milking the cow.

What accounts for this difference in policies? This may sound like a cliche, but I think culture does matter. States lacking culture of trade end up frequently have exploiters as their leaders. On the other hand, states with strong merchant traditions end up with autocrats who engage in trade.

Second, an autocrat's instinct of survival matters. In countries in which the center weakly controls the rest of the nation, we often see the rise of rapacious autocrats. Since there's always a possibility of someone kicking them out of power, autocrats do not have incentive to build - rather they simply plunder. However, controlling enterprises can make others elites green with envy, provoking competition from the autocrats' power base.

Not surprisingly, unstable African countries are generally led by rapacious autocrats, ready to leave at any moment's notice because there's no guarantee they will be able stay on top.  This results in very low human development and impoverished nations.

On the other hand, autocrats who are sure of the stability of their states, such as the Arab autocrats, tend to build and own as many enterprises as possible. Besides, it is another way to throw some bones to their population. Completely fed and employed people are generally content.

What about North Korea? I think North Korea is an aberration for one simple fact: the regime is always insecure to what they perceive as America's constant attempts to overthrow the dictatorship. So rather than building state-owned enterprises, Kim Jong-il prepares his citizens for the Armageddon, fighting to the last drop of blood to defend the regime. Really, it is more like a cult than a government.

In any case, because these dictators are so careful in stashing their riches, chances are very minimal that they will send a complete stranger soliciting their help in moving funds abroad. Heck, they have been doing it themselves for years.

Mr. Najib, Welcome to the Club!

Last weekend, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak joined the club of the "Most Clueless Leaders," following luminaries such as Ben Ali, Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad, and Qaddafi. Why? Because he did not learn anything from all the upheavals in the Middle East, and through his thoughtless actions, he managed to galvanize the opposition and sour the public's mood toward his government.

What happened last week? First, we have an organization called Bersih (meaning clean in Malay) that has clashed with the ruling party UMNO. While UMNO declared that Bersih has a plan to overthrow the Malaysian Kingdom, Bersih countered that it supported the constitutional monarchy and what it really wanted was a reform in the electoral system that it saw as very unfair. After things got heated, the King of Malaysia wisely intervened to cool down the situation.

It was a great move. The Malaysian monarchs seemed to have learned from the experiences of the Middle Eastern autocrats and their own neighbor Thailand. They seemed to understand that the more they intervene in the politics, imposing their views contrary to the will of the people, sooner or later, the discourse will turn to whether the Monarchy is still relevant to the country. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand is currently still revered in Thailand. People still recalled that he was instrumental in ending the despised military regime of Thailand. His wife and the crown prince, however, could not share the same popular adulation due to their personal misconducts and their selfish interference in politics. So by trying to mediate both the government and the opposition, the Malaysian monarch took the high road, thus remaining immune from any political fallout.

By doing that, however, they pulled the rug from the bottom of Premier Najib's arguments. At that point, to save face and probably so he could control the opposition further, he offered the National Stadium, the biggest stadium in Kuala Lumpur, for a political rally. The opposition gladly accepted. For the opposition, it was a great way to showcase their discipline. Additionally, the fact that the government offered the stadium for its use meant that Bersih would receive exposure from the mass media.

Had Najib just contented with this arrangement, Bersih might have gotten the media exposure they wanted, but that's it. The government, wary of a heavy turnout, instead declared that the deal was off because Bersih, being an unregistered organization, could not apply for the permit to hold the rally, thus breaking the agreement. He also threatened to forcibly quell the demonstration.

A Saturday street rally went on as planned, and the state cracked down in response. There were 1667 arrests and many injured, including one death. The government was seen as overreacting. People were outraged. International groups were aghast. If Prime Minister Najib was trying to humiliate Malaysia on the international stage while at the same time galvanizing the opposition, he succeeded spectacularly.

Basically, he broke the cardinal rule in mass-movement politics: never give your opponent the high ground. So now everyone says the Malaysian government is undemocratic for reneging on its promises. Had the opposition received the stadium that it wanted, it might have gotten something out in the news, but that's it. Nothing new, nothing much to see.

In fact, it would have been very easy for the opposition to do something stupid, thereby handing Mr. Najib a major victory. For one, the opposition is comprised of a mishmash of various ethnic and religious based parties. There are PAS, Malaysia's own Moslem Brotherhood. There are Chinese associations that usually don't get along with each other and with the PAS itself, but are united because they are tired of the corrupt UMNO. There are also Indians in this group. Considering the fact that ethnic balance in Malaysia is around 50% Malays, 40% Chinese, and 10% Indians/Tamils, then we have a volatile mixture and it was easy for the opposition to self-implode.

Instead, Mr. Najib gave everyone a pinata to hit, someone they commonly hate and loathe. By overreacting to Bersih, Mr. Najib is pulling a "Ben Ali." Keep in mind that Malaysia is also one of the most wired nations in the world and currently debates are raging on the net and the opposition is winning.

It is still too early to write an obituary of Mr. Najib's career. Still, a future book on the collapse of UMNO will surely give a prominent chapter to this episode, because here's when Malaysia government's credibility was undermined.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Where's the PR on Sudan?

In Tuesday's Washington Post, columnist Jackson Diehl praises how Barack Obama has delicately handled South Sudan's road to independence over the last two years. He writes: "In Sudan, as nowhere else in the Middle East, President Obama has chosen to lead from the front." Diehl cites a number of political, economic, and diplomatic actions taken by the U.S. as keys to improving North-South relations and cajoling the North into being a productive partner in this transition.

This article made us wonder why the White House hasn't highlighted these moves in Sudan, especially since they're signs of leadership in world politics--something Obama has been hammered on from both the American right and left.

Really, there are two issues we're interested in here, so let's separate them. One involves the public relations of America's role in Sudan. In short, what would it look and feel like had Team Obama  clearly illuminated, if not crowed a bit about, its Sudan policies? The second issue concerns the failure of the Obama administration to implement even a small PR effort in support of its efforts. Why has this happened? Let's look at each of these issues below.

A PR campaign on Sudan would have several components. To begin, it would require consultations between very high-level, senior-ranking staff to develop the substance of and messaging on public statements on America's involvement in Sudan. Ideally, such staff would include those officials who have jurisdiction over and an interest in North Africa and Sudan in particular (e.g., Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power).

The product of these discussions should lead to a concise narrative that directly links American efforts (political, diplomatic, and economic support) with various salient, positive empirical outcomes in Sudan (the secession is still on track, the North hasn't derailed the process, nascent cooperation between North and South, etc.). This is the story, usually filtered through talking points, that eventually gets disseminated for public consumption.

Next comes coordination between the aforementioned senior officials and their subordinates. It is essential to make as many people as possible in a host of different agencies aware of an emphasis on America's Sudan policy. And even more important, senior staff must take appropriate steps to ensure that officials of varying rank maintain consistent messaging, that everyone stays "on message," when addressing the public. As we all witnessed during the early stages of the Egyptian Revolution, when mixed messages were transmitted from Team Obama, rogue officials can undercut the goals of a PR campaign by sowing confusion within target audiences.

Finally, officials propagate the narrative through public statements and appearances, which include but are not limited to press briefings, opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines, television appearances, interviews with news outlets, and posts on Facebook and Twitter.

As best we can tell, little to none of this has happened. Why? We believe there are three main reasons.

1. South secession is a work in progress and much can still go wrong. First and foremost, President Bashir is a bad and untrustworthy leader who could sabotage the transition process by encouraging violence against the South. This is the same guy who spearheaded a decades-long civil war against the South (which ended in 2005) and fomented genocide against the population in Darfur for the past eight years. Already, in the last week, there has been violence in the oil-rich border area of Kordofan, which has triggered fears that the chaos and instability could spread to the South. And at this point, the South, which lacks a competent institutional foundation, will not be able to deal adequately with all of the potential spillover effects from violence in the North (displaced peoples, mass casualties, spread of diseases, heightened North-South tensions). Those problems, in turn, could greatly hamper the South's move to independence, sapping its resources, damaging its economy, and disrupting its state building processes, among other things.

The political risk, and accordingly the political fallout, of shining a light on U.S. policy on Sudan could be high, especially as we head toward the 2012 election season. There are a score of conservatives just waiting to pounce on any missteps committed by the Obama administration. Moreover, there are international pitfalls as well. The White House has to tread carefully here, for it has to avoid sending the signal that it's more preoccupied with galvanizing domestic political support than helping to stabilize the setting in the Sudans--something that would only needlessly antagonize the Sudanese against American assistance. 

2. There isn't a domestic audience for U.S. policy on Sudan. Sure, as Diehl points out, Sudan (for instance, Darfur, the secession) has captured the attention of Hollywood and other political activists. But as for the rest of the American population (citizens and elected officials), this policy really doesn't register much interest or concern, unfortunately. One reason for this stems from the fact that there isn't a powerful lobby that can raise the profile of all things Sudan here in the U.S.

3. Lastly, given the sorry state of the American economy, it's highly unlikely that Americans want to hear that Team Obama is granting hundreds of millions of dollars, plus other kinds of support, to Sudan. This story will not play well right now. Just think about it. Americans want out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And there's already a sense of isolationism, pulling back from the rest of the world, emerging in parts of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. What's guiding these trends is a desire for the U.S. to attend to its debt problem, high unemployment, and the scary possibility of a double-dip recession. Americans are unlikely to be receptive to the idea that the U.S. is stepping up its overseas involvement in places like Sudan, because in their view it suggests that Obama's prioritizing foreign affairs over the struggling American economy.

Sudans, likely as one part of a list of accomplishments that they'll refer to as evidence of his presidential credentials. Let's face it, with the U.S. economy still foundering and with few signs of a substantial improvement anytime soon, Obama will have to accentuate his foreign policy successes on the campaign trail. But in the meantime, we're not likely to hear very much about North and South Sudan from the White House.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Myth of the Global Jihadist Network

In a recent blog post, Yohanes and I argued that small- and medium-sized terrorist groups frequently act like firms or businesses in market settings. Hence, we used the term "market-based terrorism" to describe this phenomenon. Here, I would like to explore one important implication of our arguments.

Put simply, the idea of a global network of jihadis had been far exaggerated.

Now, to be clear, just so some readers don't misinterpret my views, I don't doubt that there are Islamic terrorists. They do exist. Nor do I deny that some of these terrorists seek to harm and destroy Americans and American interests. There are ample examples of such behavior.

The real threat, as has been the case a number of years now, comes primarily from al-Qaeda Central (located in the Af-Pak area) and its one main offshoot in Yemen. Yet for years, particularly under George W. Bush but also under Barack Obama, Americans have been led to believe that there is a global pipeline of savvy, organized terrorists lining up to wage holy war against the U.S.

This has led to a number of changes in the way America looks and acts on a daily basis. After all, the post-9/11 period has given birth to, among other things, the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, changes in the aviation industry, new mechanisms to ensure better intelligence sharing between U.S. agencies, and, of course, two wars.

Unfortunately, the logic underpinning all of these massive and extraordinarily expensive changes just isn't true. Why? How could that be?

Let's go back to the piece that Yohanes and I penned. As we have found, most organized groups which align themselves with AQ typically have local interests and are motivated to commit violence and mayhem by local level grievances (the desire for more political power, regime change, revenge against other groups in society, etc.). So although they have ties to AQ, an organization with a global focus, the franchises themselves remain locally oriented. They're really not global jihadists. And these groups aren't particularly concerned about targeting American interests as long as the U.S. stays out of their local affairs.

For instance, Jamaah Islamiyah, Chechen terrorists, AQ in Mesopotamia, and al-Shabab, to name but a few examples, fit the above characterization. Yes, even AQ in Mesopotamia (AQIM).

Sunni groups in Iraq aligned with AQ Central to receive various kinds of support (recruits, technical expertise, funds) in exchange for inflicting enough death and destruction in the country to scuttle hopes for a smooth transition to democracy--a transition, mind you, that has uplifted the position of Shia Iraqis and disempowered the minority Sunnis. Sure, AQIM  is anti-American and has fought against the military U.S., but it is first and foremost an anti-democratic, anti-Shia organization, which coincides nicely with the views of AQ Central and made a pairing feasible. America's military has been and is currently attacked by AQIM mostly because it is seen as the shield protecting the Shia government in Baghdad. Once the U.S. leaves Iraq, possibly as soon as the end of this year, AQIM won't follow American forces home nor will it look to target U.S. interests worldwide. Instead, what we're likely to find is a continuation of the violence committed by AQIM against the Iraqi Shia-dominated government.

The failure of AQ's affiliates to participate in global jihadism, combined with the increasing impotence and irrelevance of AQ Central, has prompted AQ leaders to encourage "lone wolf" attacks against the West. This is the best an enervated and leaderless AQ can hope for. Certainly, solo terror attacks can be dangerous and Washington must remain vigilant in its attention to these murderers lurking in extremist chat rooms, message boards, web sites, and the like. That said, this is hardly the picture of a vibrant terrorist network placing the U.S. under siege from all quarters of world. It is a clear signal that AQ is desperate.

Incidentally, the set of arguments posited herein is consistent with the work of Ohio State scholar John Mueller, who has also suggested that the terrorist threat is "overblown." While I don't endorse all of his claims, the strength of his work rests in his empirical observations, particularly his finding that more people die as a result of lightning strikes or falling in the bathtub than from terrorist attacks. What he lacks is good explanation to account for the data. The logic of market-based terrorism, by highlighting the relationship between AQ Central and its terror affiliates and examining the goals and motives of these franchises, probably goes some way toward filling in this theoretical gap.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Reaction to This Week's Events in Egypt

The counter revolutionaries may have succeeded in creating a battle Tuesday night that turned the people against the police and government once again, but they haven't won their war against the revolution and the reformists. The incidents, which included street battles and violence in Tahrir Square that resulted in over 1000 casualties, was likely reaction to this week's court decision to dissolve the local councils (el Magalis El Ma7alleyya) that employed remnants of the old regime.

Some Egyptians perceive that the events were orchestrated by former and current government heads that are still loyal to the old regime. Tuesday's events at the Balloon Theater was a perfect opportunity for those who want to cause chaos and instability to the country, a great chance to turn the people against the police after the relationship between the citizens and the police was slowly being rectified in many areas around the country.

I am all for pressuring the government to compensate the families of the revolutionary martyrs and to conduct speedy and transparent trials for the Mubaraks, other former regime leaders and corrupt businessmen. But more importantly, those who were accused of killing the martyrs and injuring the protesters should get their punishment first. I also believe that the trials should be fair, where each of the accused should get an equal punishment to fit his or her crimes. Nothing more and nothing less.

I also believe former President Hosni Mubarak should be transferred to Torra Jail Hospital. His stay in Sharm El Sheikh is very provocative. It has killed tourism in the city, turning it into a ghost town, based on my sources. If the authorities think that Torra's Jail Hospital is inappropriate for Mubarak, then it is for definitely inappropriate for any other human being. In that case, how about fixing it and fixing all hospitals around the country and treating every Egyptian patient with dignity and conscience?

People need to use their heads wisely and act peacefully to accomplish all of our demands for freedom and democracy. Corruption needs to be eradicated without violence, clashes or chaos, but rather through peaceful and legal negotiations between the leaders of the revolution and the government. Anger and violent clashes will take us nowhere. Enough is enough!